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Imaging Doesn't Show Pain: Debunking Misconceptions About Musculoskeletal Pain


Hello everyone, and welcome to JK Pain Rehab! Today, we're diving into a topic that often leaves people frustrated and confused – the relationship between imaging and musculoskeletal pain.

Setting the Stage

I've encountered many individuals who believe that the source of their pain can be pinpointed through imaging. The disappointment sets in when no structural abnormality is detected, leaving them feeling invalidated. It's essential to understand that imaging isn't designed to detect pain but rather to rule out specific pathologies such as spinal cord compromise, cancer, or fractures.

Limitations of Imaging

Even if an imaging study reveals something, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the sole cause of pain. In fact, many people without pain exhibit structural changes in their lower back on MRI scans. Think of it like having a photo of an old car – you might guess its operability from the picture, but you'll never know the true answer until you try to start the engine.

The Inaccuracy of Pain Localization

Now, let's consider an intriguing experiment. If you were to show ten MRI scans to different doctors or healthcare professionals and ask them to identify who is in pain, you'd be surprised at how inaccurate their responses could be. Why? Because pain is a highly personal experience, and relying solely on imaging to pinpoint its location is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Pain as a Personal Experience

Pain, fundamentally, is a personal and subjective experience. It doesn't always align with what we see on an image. It's challenging to prove the exact location of pain, and yet our society often demands 'evidence of pain' for policy-making decisions. This approach needs to change, and we must shift our collective perspective on pain.


In conclusion, understanding that imaging doesn't show pain doesn't diminish the validity of your experience. Pain is complex and influenced by various factors. So, the next time you feel frustrated by a lack of findings on an image, remember that your pain is real, personal, and not always visible. Thank you for reading, and until next time, take care.



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